Launceston Place, London: Tasting menus are finally moving on

If you were wondering how the tasting menu, which has become ubiquitous, was going to move on, this is it: by taking over your beloved Sunday lunch. Just with less gravy and Yorkshire puddings, says Emma Henderson

Wednesday 28 February 2018 17:59
What the South Kensington restaurant lacks in trimmings, it more than makes up for in innovation
What the South Kensington restaurant lacks in trimmings, it more than makes up for in innovation

I can’t remember the last time I went to a type of fine dining restaurant where there wasn’t a tasting menu on offer. I first came across the phenomenon in the restaurant I worked at during my university holidays in my home town. For our little town, a multi-course (and rather expensive) menu was rather “out there” at the time. And because of it’s specialness, I treated my parents to it for their 30th wedding anniversary. But that was about eight years ago, and the novelty has certainly worn off.

So when it came round to the end of the year, I began thinking about what would be new in 2018 in the food world. How will fine dining up itself from these multi-plate “journeys”, as they are becoming known as?

And it’s by taking over one of the much-loved British staples: the Sunday lunch. Admittedly, in the past few years, my Sunday lunches have been overtaken by Sunday brunches in this fickle world we live in where anything goes and brunch encompasses everything from an early morning fry-up to a 3pm burger.

This is where Launceston Place comes in, steering you away from the beloved brunch and back into a Sunday lunch, but don’t be fooled; it’s not the traditional kind.

Instead of the meat and seven (or so) veg, yorkshire pud and copious amounts of gravy, this five-course tasting menu is a sophisticated and grown-up version of the Sunday lunch we all know and love (best cooked by mum), with meat spilling over the edge of the plate and swamped in gravy, whether you liked it or not.

Launceston Place, in south-west London’s glamorous Gloucester Road, is set inside a Georgian townhouse. The place of dreams. The food is modern British and each month is dedicated to a different meat-themed roast, and it’s about using as much of the animal as possible (ticking those sustainability boxes). My month is chicken.

The highlight of the five courses is the parfait, featuring a blood orange glaze and crispy chicken skin granola

Despite it’s fine dining appearance, with crisp white linen cloths, there’s an air of playfulness. And you’ll notice it as soon as you look at the menu. Each course is mainly identified by an emoji. Yes, that’s right an emoji. The egg and soldiers is the chick in the half egg, the blood orange parfait is a blood orange, the oyster chicken is represented by the onion, the chicken breast a corn on the cob and the soufflé, a pomegranate.

The novelty clearly hasn’t worn off by brunch, with the egg and soldiers served in a suitably novel egg cup

But that’s not where the sense of fun ends. The second snack to arrive is a huge piece of candyfloss, served on what looks like a metal tissue box. It sounds as bonkers as it is, but topped with fennel “pollen”, the sugary sweetness of the fluffy floss is given depth by the aniseed crunch.

The highlight of the five courses is the parfait. The creamy parfait gives a nod to the season with a blood orange glaze and topped with a tiny segment of the bitter fruit. The extremely smooth texture is contrasted with a chicken “granola” (tiny crispy bits of chicken skin) mixed with sunflower seeds surrounding it, which gives the dish a chewy and nutty flavour.

The plates utilise every part of the bird, such as the chicken thigh consomme with homemade stock made from the bones

It’s closely followed by the chicken breast course, which has a peanut-coated skin that makes it feel like chicken satay, just with less sauce. It’s also served with a few pieces of sweetcorn and a sweetcorn puree.

The novelty of the egg and soldiers would have ranked higher if it had not been for the foie gras that’s in the dish – which I asked not to have. It’s the only letdown of the menu, and what I had didn’t feel like it was missing anything.

As with all great tasting menus, you won’t be stuffed, just pleasantly full. And really pleased with yourself. Next is beef in March followed by lamb in April.

The five course menu is £54. Optional wine pairing available at £34

Service *****
Food ****
Value ***

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